Privacy settings

LGO logogram

Review your privacy settings

Required cookies

These cookies enable the website to function properly. You can only disable these by changing your browser preferences, but this will affect how the website performs.

View required cookies

Analytical cookies

Google Analytics cookies help us improve the performance of the website by understanding how visitors use the site.
We recommend you set these 'ON'.

View analytical cookies

In using Google Analytics, we do not collect or store personal information that could identify you (for example your name or address). We do not allow Google to use or share our analytics data. Google has developed a tool to help you opt out of Google Analytics cookies.

Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Council (20 011 777)

Category : Children's care services > Adoption

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 26 Sep 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mr and Mrs P complain about their dealings with the Council in the course of their adoption of their son, B. An independent investigation upheld 14 of their 15 complaints. The Council accepted the investigator’s findings and recommendations. I agree with the independent investigator’s findings and the action the Council has taken in response.

The complaint

  1. Mr and Mrs P complain about their dealings with the Council in the course of their adoption of their son, B. Their compliant centres on the Council’s failure to provide information about B’s life before he was placed with them. They say the Council’s failure to tell them everything prevented them making informed decisions, and their experiences trying to obtain information has undermined their trust in the Council. They set out their concerns in detail in their complaint to the Council, and they are unhappy with the Council’s response. They believe external scrutiny of the Council is needed.

Back to top

The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word fault to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. If there has been fault which has caused an injustice, we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), as amended)
  2. If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)

Back to top

How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered:
    • information provided by Mr and Mrs P;
    • information provided by the Council, including its response to their complaint at all three stages of the Children Act complaints process.
  2. I invited Mr and Mrs P and the Council to comment on my draft decision.

Back to top

What I found

  1. Mr and Mrs P were identified as potential parents for B in 2018. A short time later, the Council placed B with them.
  2. Mr and Mrs P have found their dealings with the Council difficult and extremely stressful. When they decided to adopt, they said they would not be able to cope with a child who had suffered sexual abuse. Their complaint arises in large part from the Council’s failure to disclose information about B’s past, and their concern the Council was concealing sexual abuse from them.

The Council’s response to Mr and Mrs P’s complaint

  1. The Council considered Mr and Mrs P’s complaint at all three stages of the Children Act complaints process. This is a formal procedure, set out in law, which councils must follow to investigate certain types of complaint. It involves:
    • a written response from the Council (Stage 1);
    • the appointment of an independent investigator to prepare a report (Stage 2); and, if the person making the complaint requests
    • an independent panel to consider their representations (Stage 3).
  2. The independent investigator upheld 14 of the 15 complaints she investigated. She found the Council had not told Mr and Mrs P everything it knew about B’s past. This was the result of frequent changes of social worker, not the result of a plan to deceive Mr and Mrs P. The independent investigator noted how detrimental frequent changes of social worker could be for a child in the Council’s care. She concluded the Council’s response to Mr and Mrs P had contributed to their feeling the Council dismissed their concerns.
  3. To address Mr and Mrs P’s lack of trust in the Council and their concern the Council had still not disclosed all the information it held about B, the independent investigator recommended a review of B’s files involving a social worker from Mr and Mrs P’s adoption agency.
  4. The Council accepted the independent investigator’s findings and recommendations. The Council concluded, “Having reviewed all of the available information, I regret to say that our social work practice in relation to B and yourselves has fallen short of the high standards we expect of our staff and for this, I am both disappointed and truly sorry.” The Council offered Mr and Mrs P a payment of £1,000 in recognition of the impact of its mistakes on them.
  5. Mr and Mrs P remained dissatisfied and requested an independent panel consider their complaint at the third stage of the complaints process. They said they had only just received a full disclosure of information the Council held about B’s past; the adoption agency had not yet had access to B’s files; and the payment the Council offered was not sufficient.
  6. Following the review panel, the Council made arrangements for the adoption agency to review B’s files and increased its offer to £1,500.
  7. Mr and Mrs P remain dissatisfied and complain to the Ombudsman. They say they find it hard to put into words the stress and trauma they have suffered. They want independent scrutiny of the Council and an assurance the Council has disclosed all the information it holds about B. They want more compensation, which they say they will use to ensure B has access to therapy.

Consideration

  1. When a council has investigated a complaint under the Children Act complaints process, the Ombudsman would not normally re-investigate it. We may consider whether a council has properly considered the findings and recommendations of the independent investigator and review panel, and any remedy the Council offers.
  2. I am satisfied the independent investigator carried out a thorough and fair investigation. I agree with her findings and recommendations. I do not intend to investigate Mr and Mrs P’s complaint further.
  3. The Council has accepted the independent investigator’s findings and recommendations. Mr and Mrs P’s trusted representative from their adoption agency has now had access to B’s files. The Council has offered compensation.
  4. We have published guidance to explain how we recommend remedies for people who have suffered injustice as a result of fault by a council. Our primary aim is to put people back in the position they would have been in if the fault by the Council had not occurred. When this is not possible, as in the case of Mr and Mrs P, we may recommend the Council makes a symbolic payment to acknowledge what could have been avoidable distress, harm or risk.
  5. When the Ombudsman recommends a payment for distress, we only take account of avoidable distress that is the result of fault by the Council. A remedy payment for distress is often a moderate sum of between £100 and £300. In exceptional cases, it may be more. The Ombudsman does not recommend compensation in the same way a Court might.
  6. I do not underestimate how difficult Mr and Mrs P’s experience has been or the distress they have suffered. I consider the Council’s offer of £1,500 is a suitable symbolic payment to acknowledge the impact of the Council’s mistakes.
  7. Mr and Mrs P are keen there should be external scrutiny of the Council’s actions. This has already happened. The Council fulfilled its legal obligation to arrange an independent investigation and an independent complaint review panel to consider Mr and Mrs P’s complaint. The Council has accepted their findings and recommendations. I agree with the independent investigator’s findings and recommendations. There is nothing for the Ombudsman to add.

Back to top

Final decision

  1. I have completed my investigation. An independent investigation under the Children Act complaints process upheld 14 of Mr and Mrs P’s 15 complaints. The Council accepted the independent investigator’s findings and recommendations. I agree with the outcome.

Back to top

Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

Print this page